By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2011; 6:40 PM
President Obama on Friday named Gene Sperling director of the National Economic Council, choosing a veteran of the Clinton administration budget battles to navigate the rocky shoals of record budget deficits, high unemployment and a Republican resurgence in Congress.
The announcement was made in the Prince George's County suburb of Landover, during a presidential visit to a window company that is taking advantage of a new tax break for businesses.
Obama also announced other changes to his economic team - including the appointment of University of Maryland economist Katharine G. Abraham to the three-member Council of Economic Advisers - amid a broader shakeup of the White House in preparation for the 2012 presidential campaign.
Sperling, currently a senior counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, replaces Lawrence H. Summers, a respected economist who served as Clinton's Treasury secretary and as president of Harvard University after that.
Sperling is not an economist by training. But he is valued as a savvy and knowledgable political player. His experience negotiating successfully with Republicans may prove useful as the administration shifts away from a highly creative period of developing policies to counteract the recent recession, and hunkers down for a protracted fight over government spending, taxes and the fate of Obama's new health-care law.
An enthusiastic campaign warrior who advised 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, as well as Bill Clinton and other Democrats going back to the days of Michael Dukakis, Sperling is also seen as an able communicator, who can shape the administration's message and convey it to the public and on Capitol Hill.
Obama also announced other changes on his economic team. Jason Furman, who has served as Summers' deputy on the NEC since the start of the administration, is becoming principal deputy director of the NEC and assistant to the president for economic policy. Heather Higginbottom, who has been deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, was nominated to move to the White House budget office as deputy director under Jacob Lew, another Clinton veteran. Higginbottom's post requires Senate confirmation.
And Obama nominated Abraham to the CEA, a post that also requires Senate confirmation. Abraham is a professor in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology and a faculty associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Maryland. A graduate of Harvard and Iowa State, Abraham served as commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Labor Department from 1993 to 2001.